Boys cross country races to success once again


Senior Jesse Sollinger completes the final stretch on Sept. 11 at Bethpage State Park

Daniel Dash, Staff Writer

The boys cross country team is off to an excellent start this year after finishing first in Nassau County at the difficult Sunken Meadow course.

Many of the team’s former leaders — Jordan Hurt, Joey Levine, Rory Owens, and Aaron Siff-Scherr in particular—  graduated last June, leaving the rest of the boys wondering what they would do without their most experienced runners.

“At the beginning of the season, we did not look good on paper,” said senior captain Jared Levine.  “We were doubtful coming in having lost our top four guys.  However, the team showed that we have the skill to fill those gaps, and then some.  This could be our best team ever.”

Luckily for this year’s team, however, last year’s captains passed the batons seamlessly to the new senior leaders: Aaron Cotumaccio, Jared Levine, Grant Bruno, and Alexander Zsikla.

“They are all excellent captains,” said senior Jesse Sollinger.  “Every practice they push me to be better, and it truly makes a difference.”

Their first invitational race proved that the cross country team can still perform at the same high level as before.  The meet took place at an extremely difficult course at Sunken Meadows.  Sunken Meadow is known for its hilly courses, but one slope stands out in particular.  Cardiac Hill, as it is often called, is a near vertical incline that completely exhausts runners.

“Cardiac Hill keeps me up at night,” said Sollinger.  “You try and pump your arms to get through it, but you still go nowhere.  It’s like you’re running in place.”

Despite these challenges, the team had an overall strong finish.  One great performance came from Cotumaccio, who ran a 19:37.  Two surprise performances came from freshmen Oliver Melara and Noah Loewy.  Melara was virtually unheard of coming out of middle school, but he impressed everyone by the first day of practice.

“We never heard of him, but he came out sprinting and didn’t stop,” said Cotumaccio.

Melara finished first Port on the team, beating Cotumaccio by just one second.  Loewy also had an excellent run, finishing in third place with a time of 19:42.

Less experienced runners often struggle at Sunken Meadow because the course is so hilly, but the freshmen truly rose to the occasion.  The team’s combination of commitment, hard work, and talent have all contributed to the boys’ success thus far.

“People aren’t dropping out of workouts and are performing well at practice.  That has really shown on race day,” said Cotumaccio.  “The work ethic of this team has been excellent; every single runner is driven.”

Getting the most out of every practice is vitally important to the success of any team, and boys cross-country has recognized that.  Every runner is making an effort to put his best foot forward at the high-intensity practices.  The boys are guided by Mr. Jeremy Klaff, who has been coaching cross-country for many years, and his experience has shown on the team.  The maturity and poise of all the runners can be attributed to Mr. Klaff’s coaching techniques.

“Klaff has pushed students to be the best runners they could possibly be by making sure they run hard and well in every workout,” said Sollinger.  “He has done an excellent job in picking and managing workouts to get a strenuous workout in without injuring guys.”

Expectations are high for the cross-country team for their performance the rest of the season, and hopefully the cross country runners will be able to maintain their high level of dedication and their serious work ethic as the fall season progresses.